A rectovaginal fistula is an abnormal connection between the lower portion of your large intestine — your rectum — and your vagina. Contents of your bowel can leak through the fistula, meaning you might pass gas or stool through your vagina.

A rectovaginal fistula may result from an injury during childbirth, Crohn's disease or other inflammatory bowel disease, radiation treatment or cancer in the pelvic area, or a complication following surgery in the pelvic area.

The symptoms of a rectovaginal fistula often cause emotional distress as well as physical discomfort, which can impact self-esteem and intimate relationships. Though bringing up the subject with your doctor may be difficult, it's important to have a rectovaginal fistula evaluated. Some rectovaginal fistulas may close on their own, but most need to be repaired surgically.

Nov. 15, 2012